NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s former sports minister paid a fine of just over $32,000 on Thursday to avoid a six-year jail sentence after being convicted of corruption and abuse of office for misappropriating money set aside for the country’s 2016 Olympic team.
Hassan Wario’s sentence was to pay the fine or go to jail. He paid and was released from custody soon after Thursday’s sentencing hearing, provoking uproar from some Kenyans on social media. They were angered that Wario was freed after being found guilty of corruption relating to the misuse of more than $800,000 that was meant to help Kenyan athletes’ prepare for and perform at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
There were allegations that corruption in the buildup and during the Games was rife among other Kenyan government and sports officials, who were accused of stealing money from the $5.7 million Olympic budget and some of the $700,000 given to the track and field federation by sponsor Nike.
Stephen Soi, a co-accused in the trial who was the Kenyan team’s chef de mission in Rio, was also convicted on the same charges and sentenced to 12 years in jail or a fine of about $950,000.
Wario and Soi were sentenced by anti-corruption judge Elizabeth Juma, who found them guilty on Wednesday. She ruled that Wario, who was sports minister from 2013-2018, used some of the team’s budget to fly three people unconnected to the Olympics to Brazil and pay them allowances.
Juma ruled that Soi was the main offender with regard to misusing money. She said she took into account that both were first-time offenders and gave the two men 14 days to appeal.
Former Kenyan Olympic committee secretary general Francis Paul and three other sports ministry officials were acquitted.
Wario is the most senior government official to be convicted of corruption in relation to the Olympic scandal. He was Kenya’s ambassador to Austria when he was arrested and charged in 2018.
David Okeyo, the former vice president of Athletics Kenya and a council member at the world track body, was banned from the sport for life the same year for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of the Nike money.
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